Guiding principles form a new health-care paradigm
By Dr. Martin Gleixner, MSc, ND
In two previous columns, I wrote about improving health care in New Brunswick as well as for all Canadians.
I proposed an integrated approach that sees family physicians (MDs) and naturopathic doctors (NDs) working side-by-side. I also discussed a new health paradigm that aims to determine and address the true cause of one's medical concerns.
Let's look into more ways that we can improve medicine.
We are living in a time when the costs and successes of conventional and complementary medicine are coming into question. Spiralling hospital costs and long wait times, side-effects and complications of pharmaceutical drugs, pros and cons of vaccinations, standardization of active ingredients in supplements, ideal vitamin daily recommendations, a biochemical explanation for homeopathy, are but a few.
We rely on the government and advances in scientific research to help us understand and overcome these challenges. Progress is slow but necessary. To help guide doctors and government reforms and innovative changes in health care, we can start now by adopting a new approach in the way we think about medicine.
As a qualified naturopathic doctor, the following six principles have provided me with a unique understanding and strong foundation in the way that I practice medicine. They are:
- First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere)
- Co-operate with the Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)
- Identify and Treat the Cause (Tolle Causam)
- Treat the Whole Person
- Doctor as Teacher (Docere)
- Prevent Disease & Promote Health.
Adopting these time-tested guiding principles can provide not only naturopathic doctors but also other health professionals with a new vision for practising medicine. This is the change that our health-care system desperately needs.
These principles allow both medical doctors and naturopathic doctors to practice within a framework that can best promote a patient's health.
These principles can also enhance a doctor's ability to diagnose health conditions, improve patient-doctor interactions, lead to better treatment success, minimize the use of invasive procedures and medical complications, to name a few.
For patients, these guidelines provide reassurance, help them understand the causes behind their disease so that they know how to take care of themselves in the future, and provide them with an understanding behind suggestions and treatments provided by the doctor.
With permission from the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND), www.cand.ca, the following excerpt provides an excellent summary of the guiding principles.
First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere)
Naturopathic medicine follows three principles to avoid harming the patient:
- utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects;
- avoid, when possible, the harmful suppression of symptoms;
- acknowledge and respect the individual's healing process, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat illness.
Your naturopathic doctor chooses remedies and therapies that are safe and effective, to increase your health and decrease harmful side effects.
The Healing Power of Nature
Your naturopathic doctor works to restore and support the powerful and inherent healing ability of your body, mind and spirit and to prevent further disease from occurring. Naturopathic doctors identify and remove obstacles to recovery, facilitating and augmenting this ordered and intelligent healing ability.
Identify and Treat the Cause (Tolle Causam)
The primary goal of your naturopathic doctor is to determine and treat the underlying cause rather than simply managing or suppressing the symptoms. The underlying cause may be due to diet, lifestyle habits, life events, posture or environment. Symptoms are viewed as expressions of the body's natural attempt to heal.
For a more in-depth explanation of this principle, please visit www.monctonnaturopathic.com for Dr. Gleixner's previous column entitled "Address underlying problems, not just symptoms".
Treat the Whole Person (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)
Each person is unique and requires individualized care. In treating the cause of any condition your naturopathic doctor takes into account not only your physical symptoms, but also mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, spiritual and other factors. Disease affects the entire person, not just a specific organ or system. Your nutritional status, lifestyle, family history, feelings, environmental stresses, and physical health are all carefully evaluated and addressed.
Doctor as Teacher (Docere)
Your naturopathic doctor will assist you in understanding health and illness. He/she will provide you with an understanding of the factors that affect your health and help you balance and become more capable of maintaining your own health. Naturopathic doctors also acknowledge the therapeutic value inherent in the doctor-patient relationship.
Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Your naturopathic doctor applies all of the above principles in a proactive form of disease prevention and health promotion. Naturopathic doctors emphasize healthy daily habits, they assess risk factors and hereditary susceptibility to disease and make appropriate interventions to prevent illness.
Health is more than just the absence of disease. Health entails daily functioning on the highest possible levels, and is obtained by proper nutrition, exercise, a balanced lifestyle, positive emotions, thoughts and actions. The capacity for optimal wellness or an improved quality of life is inherent in every body.
The use of naturopathic medicine in conjunction with conventional medicine and adopting the naturopathic principles discussed herein is not only a timely undertaking, but can help infuse a necessary framework into the way we practice medicine in New Brunswick and Canada.
Published by Dr. Gleixner on Wednesday January 26th, 2011 in Times & Transcript.
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